‘Just stay focused on the next one. That’s how you win in this league,’ said head coach Darryl Sutter
Calgary Flames bench boss Darryl Sutter, after yet another overtime loss, was asked about his message to his men.
“Just stay focused on the next one. That’s how you win in this league.”
You are reading: Analyzing the Flames’ remaining 12 games: Can they make the playoffs?
The Flames need wins — a bunch of ’em. (They did receive a double dose of good news on Sunday’s out-of-town scoreboard, with the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators both losing in regulation).
With 12 dates remaining on their regular-season slate, starting with a two-game getaway to SoCal, the Flames are four points back of the Jets for the final wildcard in the Western Conference. For Sutter’s squad this last stretch is ‘The Defining Dozen.’
“It feels like I say it every time I talk to you guys, but we have to get every point we can,” stressed workhorse defenceman Rasmus Andersson during Saturday’s post-game scrums.
“We just need to win games, that’s it,” echoed forward Blake Coleman in an interview with Sportsnet 960 The Fan. “I think we all believe in what we have in the room. Everyone is frustrated — fans, players, media, whatever it is. Everyone is frustrated because we all think we have better, and we all think we should be in a better spot. The only way to get there is to win and to work.
“Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. At the end of the day, it’s on us. Four points on this trip would be pretty big time for our team.”
THE DEFINING DOZEN
Monday, March 20 — Flames at Los Angeles Kings
About the opponent: The Kings are fighting for top perch in the Pacific Division.
Head-to-head in 2022-23: The Flames are 1-0-1 in two matchups so far.
What we know … or wonder: Although they settled for a single Saturday, the Kings are riding a 10-game point streak on home ice, their longest such spree since 2001-02. They’re 8-0-2 at ‘The Crypt’ during that superb stretch.
Tuesday, March 21 — Flames at Anaheim Ducks
About the opponent: The Ducks are daydreaming about the draft lottery, currently sitting fourth-last in the overall standings.
Head-to-head in 2022-23: The two teams have split a pair of meetings.
What we know … or wonder: As the Flames wrap a back-to-back set, do they dust off second-string goalie Dan Vladar? He hasn’t been tapped for a start since Feb. 28, when he was hooked after 20 minutes.
Thursday, March 23 — Vegas Golden Knights at Flames
About the opponent: The Golden Knights are trying to secure the first seed in the Pacific Division.
Readmore : Defending champion Taylor Fritz advances at the BNP Paribas Open
Head-to-head in 2022-23: The Flames have picked up points in all three games, with a 2-0-1 mark.
Saturday, March 25 — San Jose Sharks at Flames
About the opponent: The Sharks have the NHL’s lowest win total. So … not good.
Head-to-head in 2022-23: The Flames swept a two-game stay in San Jose shortly before Christmas.
What we know … or wonder: This is the Flames’ final matinee of the season. They are 4-3-0 in afternoon affairs, although they delivered a dud in the latest — a Family Day faceoff with the Flyers.
Tuesday, March 28 — Los Angeles Kings at Flames
About the opponent: The Kings, believe it or not, have not earned a regular-season division title since 1990-91.
Head-to-head in 2022-23: This wraps a four-game series between these two squads.
What we know … or wonder: The Flames better keep close tabs on Anze Kopitar. The veteran centre has racked up 26 career points as a guest to the Saddledome, the third-highest total among active NHLers.
Friday, March 31 — Flames at Vancouver Canucks
About the opponent: The Canucks will miss the playoffs for the seventh time in eight campaigns.
Head-to-head in 2022-23: Two wins for the Flames, but both nail-biters.
What we know … or wonder: Jacob Markstrom has been particularly stingy against his old pals. Since signing in Calgary as a free agent, Markstrom has posted a 9-3-1 record and .921 save percentage in 13 clashes with the Canucks.
Sunday, April 2 — Anaheim Ducks at Flames
About the opponent: The Ducks have the NHL’s worst defensive stats, allowing more than four goals per game. Heading into Sunday’s action, their differential was nearing minus-triple-digits. Yikes.
Head-to-head in 2022-23: By this point, somebody will own a 2-1 edge.
What we know … or wonder: We’re still wondering why the Flames no-showed for a March 10 meeting at the Saddledome, a listless 3-1 loss to this rebuilding bunch.
Tuesday, April 4 — Chicago Blackhawks at Flames
Readmore : Ducks’ losing streak stretches to eight games with loss to Flames
About the opponent: The Blackhawks remain a top contender in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes.
Head-to-head in 2022-23: Flames fans, you don’t want to be reminded.
What we know … or wonder: The Flames have too often struggled against the cellar-dwellers, and this is the prime example. The Blackhawks have won both meetings, including a 5-1 drubbing at the Dome just before the all-star break.
Wednesday, April 5 — Flames at Winnipeg Jets
About the opponent: The Jets are clinging to the final wildcard berth in the Western Conference.
Head-to-head in 2022-23: A two-game saw-off so far, with bragging rights for the home team in both.
What we know … or wonder: In what should be the biggest game of the season, you were likely hoping for better news — the Flames have lost four in a row in Friendly Manitoba. This is a gruelling back-to-back, so they’ll also be short on sleep. Not ideal.
Saturday, April 8 — Flames at Vancouver Canucks
About the opponent: On Masters weekend, the Canucks will already be booking tee times. (Depending on the results between now and then, the Flames might be, too.)
Head-to-head in 2022-23: This marks the Flames’ second visit to Vancouver in a nine-day span.
Monday, April 10 — Nashville Predators at Flames
About the opponent: The Predators, like the Flames, are chasing the Jets for the final wildcard.
Head-to-head in 2022-23: The Calgarians have lost both contests, managing one measly goal in each.
What we know … or wonder: Will either team still have a shot at a playoff invite? And will the Predators, with a depleted roster and the NHL’s busiest schedule over the closing stretch, already be out of gas?
Wednesday, April 12 — San Jose Sharks at Flames
About the opponent: San Jose’s biggest bright spot has been Erik Karlsson, who is piling up points and could be clearing a spot on his mantle for another Norris Trophy.
Head-to-head in 2022-23: The Flames, if they win a March 25 matchup, will be shooting to go four-for-four.
What we know … or wonder: Game 82. What’s there to wonder other than … will it mean anything for the locals?